Free-to-Play is A-OK - Posted on March 20, 2013 by Chris
Let’s talk about free-to-play games.
I mean, really talk about them. Pick them apart. Analyze them. Maybe even learn a few things.
I can't figure out a way to comment on the actual blog page, so I guess I'll do it here.
The article is interesting, but I think the author gets a lot of points wrong.
First off, he conflates F2P with a free demo, like the demo period on XBLIG games. I think there's a big difference between a game demo, which is upfront about it being only part of a game, and you can get the full game with no restrictions for a price, and a F2P title which presents itself as complete and free, and then hits you repeatedly for purchases to "complete" to experience, or just make it tolerable. It's the lie of some F2P titles that upsets people.
Then he argues that F2P purchases are just a monetization scheme, similar to better graphics, using established IP, or even fan service. The difference, however, is that companies use better graphics, etc. to make their games appealing to players, by enhancing the game experience or giving the players what they think they want, so that they'll buy the game, recommend it to friends, etc. F2P, by contrast, often uses methods that detract
from the game experience and deny
the players what they want, with the fix being a purchase. So while both game developers are out to make money, developers using the traditional model have to do so by pleasing the gamer, while F2P titles often do so by annoying the gamer.
The argument the PC gamers can "pay-to-win" by buying better computers or faster internet connections is only correct to a point, and only with fast-twitch games. Any turn-based game isn't going to give an advantage to a person with faster PC or internet, and console games even smooth out the hardware edge. Moreover, some F2P games blatently let people earn higher scores. This Wired article details someone getting the world record in a F2P game after spending $25 on it:http://www.wired.com...isc-pay-to-win/
The author mentions spending on crystals in Triple Town, and how that's not a bad thing. The thing is though, the creator of Triple Town specifically limits how many items you can buy in a given round of the game, and that gamers playing for free earn the in-game currency used to buy such items. So a player can't simply buy infinite crystals to get the high score in Triple Town. This was by design by the developer, so the people paying for the in-game coins wouldn't have an edge. As the Wired article above points out, not all F2P games restrict purchases this way.
The author says "playing a f2p game seriously is all about figuring out how to get as far as possible by spending as little as possible. It becomes a hardcore min/max strategy game, and figuring out the strategy is really fun." He's basically spinning the tension of constant purchase decisions as fun
Going back to Triple Town, I play the game for free. The main restriction this creates is the number of moves I can make. I have a limited number that regenerates over time. The only "strategy" involved is waiting for more turns, basically exiting the game and returning to it later. This isn't fun, it's annoying, but its an annoyance I endure in order to keep playing the game for free. I could pay a one-time fee to get unlimited turns, but I'd rather pay for free. But make no mistake, the waiting game I have to play isn't a serious strategy game on its own, and it's NOT fun. For another example, here's a review of Real Racing 3, where the reviewer feels that the artificial waiting times in the game detract, not enhance, the playing experience:http://penny-arcade....ed-by-eas-greed
Overall, I agree that not all F2P titles are evil. However, it very much depends on how the game tries to monetize its players. Path of Exile is a F2P game where the game truly is free to play. There's no restrictions to playing the game for people playing for free, and the only advantages people paying get are cosmetic. This has turned out to be a profitable strategy for them, as fans of the game are paying for the cosmetics simply to support the studio and show their appreciation. It lets people pay because they feel like the game deserves it, not because they have to in order to progress or make the game tolerable:http://penny-arcade....e/path-of-exile